You know how they say ‘If I had to be marooned on an island...’? Well, I’d like that island to be Bali, Indonesia. A 1.5 hour flight away from Jakarta, Bali lies just 3km away from Java and is truly a paradise.
Although I landed in Denpasar, Bali’s capital, instead of starting there, I decided to map a different route. Reason? A hankering for adventure. Amed is unexplored – it’s hardly frequented by tourists. It’s devoid of commercialism. There are temples and Ganesha statues everywhere – Bali is home to 90% Hindus, peppered with a Muslim, Christian and Buddhist population.
Terraced rice fields in Ubud
Now, back to adventure. I had two choices: trekking up Mount Agung, a 3000-metre active volcano or diving. But thanks to Bali’s famed coral reefs, I was interested in a meditative session of diving. Needless to say, it also wouldn’t challenge my sorry levels of stamina. If, however, you’re fit, Mount Agung can be climbed in 5-7 hours in a trek that begins 11pm. The Jemuluk Bay is an excellent choice for snorkelers too, and the rocky Tulamben Bay boasts of a US military shipwreck. We saw barracuda, mantis shrimp, frogfish and even a turtle, who was a very cool customer. Stay options are aplenty and they’re cheap and excellent. For food, there are warungs (shacks) that serve authentic Indonesian cuisine. Try Pantai for their daily catch.
Tanah Lot temple in south Bali
The next leg of our journey was Ubud in central Bali, a quaint retreat where the countryside boasts of miles of terraced rice paddies. You can take a tour and buy souvenirs on the way. Although recently- developed, Ubud is full of great restaurants, boutiques and shops where you can get masks, vintage wooden posters, jewellery and other knick knacks. It is also home to many art galleries that stock artworks by local artists. Make sure you catch dinner at Cafe Lotus, which also hosts a traditional Balinese dance performance with the Pura Saraswati (Saraswati temple) as the backdrop. And though there are many places where you’ll find Italian, Mexican and even Indian, I suggest trying the local cuisine, like Nasi Goreng (a rice preparation), Mie Goreng (noodles) and Sate (skewered meat with peanut sauce).
One of the numerous roadside shops in Ubud that have on offer everything, from fridge magnets and keychains to cane handbags, essential oils and jewellery
I also visited a coffee plantation to check out the famed Luwak coffee which – brace your guts (no pun intended) – is literally ‘poop coffee’, made by extracting coffee seeds from the poo of the Luwak and roasting them. But it’s heartbreaking to see the animals caged, and in some places, being ‘fed’ the coffee beans rather than them ‘choosing’ the best ones, which they naturally do.
After two days in Ubud, I headed to Seminyak in South Bali, which lies in stark contrast to the quiet streets of Amed. Here you will find swanky hotels, restaurants and stores. While I mostly lounged by the pool and walked along the beach, you could try surfing further down south in Kuta. Don’t miss the spectacular Tanah Lot temple in Tabanan, 20km from Denpasar. As my journey came to an end, I realised that Bali isn’t all adventure and shopping, it’s also a spiritual revival, one that will always leave me wanting to come back, and you too.